by Zoe Hawkins
Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week 2011 participate TeamVodafoneSailing, won every race that it entered during its two month stint in Australia at Airlie Beach and even a couple that it didn’t but, now the sixty foot trimaran is midway across the Tasman and will soon be back in New Zealand, ready to commence the spring racing calendar.
TeamVodafoneSailing - Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week 2011
The boat has completed a 4,000 nautical mile tour that took it from Auckland to Sydney, and into the tropical Whitsundays, before returning home.
'It has been a great success in every way,' says owner and skipper, Simon Hull. 'We achieved all our objectives, proved that TeamVodafoneSailing is the fastest boat in the Southern Hemisphere, and showcased multihulls on the Australian race scene.'
TeamVodafoneSailing’s tour proper started in July with a 384nm Sydney to Southport Race.
'This was much anticipated as we raced another ORMA 60 (Team Australia – owned by Sean Langman) for the first time.'
'The CYCA would not give us a division in their race, and as we wanted to pit ourselves in the same conditions and the same water as the Australian Maxi fleet, an ANZYC race was organised which started 15 minutes later and 3/4 mile deeper in Sydney Harbour than the 70 odd yachts in the monohull race.'
TeamVodafoneSailing completed that race seven hours ahead of a damaged Team Australia, who in turn was about ten minutes ahead of the first supermaxi over the line, Wild Oats IX.
A great victory for the wildcards in the fleet.
'A large part of the tour was about exposing Australia to high performance multihulls,' says Simon Hull, of the speed difference between TeamVodafoneSailing and Australia’s top monohull race machines.
The next race up the coast, which many boats use as part of their journey north to the Whitsunday Regattas, is the 342nm Brisbane to Keppel Race.
Team Australia were committed elsewhere, and with no multihull division for TeamVodafoneSailing to enter, they couldn’t race, but what they could do, was spectate.
'We watched the start from leeward of the fleet, and five minutes after they had all gone, we sailed below the line heading north to watch the finish. We were ahead of the three maxis by the exit of the shallow and bar strewn Brisbane Harbour, and headed north,' recalls Simon.
During the night TVS had head car lock problems, a man up the mast for almost an hour and, for many hours, a forced reef.
'All this meant that we found that by the time we had made a temporary fix the next morning, Wild Oats X1 was 10 nm ahead with 40nm to run to Keppel and we were in serious danger of not seeing them finish.'
'Conditions were 10-15 VMG running. As the morning unfolded we were able to see the giant seven on her sail slowly getting bigger, and fortunately we were able to sail to the finish line with two minutes to spare, to see the supermaxi finish in a new record time.'
'It was definitely fun spectating.'
The next leg of the tour was the renowned Meridien Airlie Beach Race Week, famed for absolutely fantastic sailing conditions and a legendary shoreside après sail scene.
This was TVS’s first event as an official entrant, and the boat was up against a great fleet of tris and cats raced hard, under an Australian handicap system.
'This regatta was one of the highlights, not just because of its magnificent sailing conditions, but because of the welcome we got and the response from the Multihull community we met there,' says Simon Hull.
Taking 20 local youth sailors over the boat, and sending them off with big smiles and crew hats, was a big buzz for the crew.
Hot on the heels of Airlie Beach came the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, undoubtedly the premier regatta in Australia, with big and prestigious racing fleets, combined with a lot of exclusive shore based activities, and a rich and famous feel.
'Hamo was to be the racing highlight for the boat, as we were entered in the Super Maxi division, along with the maxis. It was to be our chance to understand how we compared in different winds and different points of sail, but unfortunately for whatever reason the maxis decided to race in IRC Division meaning we didn't meet on the start line,' says Simon Hull.
Even though TeamVodafoneSailing only met the supermaxis three times on the race course, and each time started well after the monohull fleet, the big red tri completed the course in the fastest elapsed time on all three occasions.
On two very memorable reaching legs, the big red boat blast reached past the maxis doing two for one to their speed - a phenomenon which inevitably leads to the crazed 'Multihull howl' (yeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaa).
The boat also set a new record for the 24nm Linderman Island race, completing the course in just one hour, 33 minutes and 17 seconds, 18 minutes faster than the pace set by Wild Oats on the same day.
Of course, the shore scene is every bit as important as the sailing scene when you are racing in the Whitsundays, and the onshore entertainment was very well patronized by the crew, who were seldom beaten on the dance floor for energy or endurance, really showing the Kiwi keenness in every way.
'The one cloud on the whole Regatta was sitting at a prize giving with a thousand Aussies and having the All Black /Wallaby score feed to us blow by painful blow,' jokes Simon.
'At Hamo and Airlie we were absolutely humbled by the thanks and appreciation we received from both Multi and monohull sailors alike.'
20 different sailors crewed on the boat over the period, to have from 8 to12 on board racing at any time.
'I would like to thank the plethora of people we meet who helped and encouraged us on the way, but most I would like to thank the team, particularly the four guys who did the whole tour with me,' concludes Simon.
TeamVodafoneSailing is also supported by Line 7, Predictwind.com, Seatrade, Fusion, Harken, Fineline, B&G, Steinlager, Safety at Sea and Wilde Media.